Deja vu for Massachusetts voters?

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BOSTON -- Massachusetts voters weary from one of the nation's costliest and most divisive U.S. Senate races are all but certain to find themselves thrown back into another tumultuous election now that President Barack Obama has nominated Sen. John Kerry for secretary of state.

If confirmed by the Senate, as expected, Democrat Kerry would have to resign the seat he's held for nearly three decades, meaning a special election that will be the state's third Senate contest since 2010.

Jockeying already is well under way. The big question is whether Republican Sen. Scott Brown will go for the seat after losing his last month to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

He kept the door wide open to another run during a farewell address on the Senate floor, declaring victory and defeat are "temporary" things. "Depending on what happens, and where we go, all of us, we may obviously meet again."

Brown would be a formidable candidate. He has a statewide political organization and more than $400,000 left in his campaign account. He remains popular and demonstrated an ability to raise millions of dollars in campaign donations. But he would still have to contend with all the hurdles facing any Republican in heavily Democratic Massachusetts. Still, he'd probably have a clear path to the GOP nomination.

Should Brown opt out, former Gov. William Weld, former gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker and Richard Tisei, who lost a narrow race to Democratic U.S. Rep. John Tierney, are among the Republicans waiting in the wings for a possible run.

Democrats don't have a clear front-runner, given that Gov. Deval Patrick doesn't plan to break his pledge to serve out the last two years of his term. He still could play a pivotal role.

Patrick could use his sway in the party to clear what looks like a potentially crowded Democratic field. On Friday, however, he said he'd probably not endorse anyone in a Democratic primary.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who lost to Brown in the 2010 special election, pulled her name out of contention on Friday.

Several Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation have said they would seriously consider running for the final two years of Kerry's term, including Reps. Michael Capuano, Edward Markey, Stephen Lynch and Niki Tsongas. Most would begin a campaign with a financial edge. But all would have to work quickly to expand their appeal outside of their home districts.

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Others mentioned by Democratic insiders are U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Ted Kennedy Jr., a son of the late senator, an advocate for the disabled.

The governor will be required to fill Kerry's seat temporarily with an interim appointment, while setting a day for the special election between 145 days and 160 days after Kerry's resignation. Patrick said he expects anyone he appoints to not run in the special election.

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis, retiring Rep. Barney Frank and Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy, have been mentioned in Democratic circles as possible interim senators.

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